Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has signaled that he is pivoting on the core issue of his campaign: immigration.
On Aug. 22, Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he now plans on deporting criminal offenders who live in the country illegally instead of all immigrants in the country without permission, a strategy that closely hews to what President Barack Obama is already doing.
“We are going to obey the existing laws,” Trump said. “Now, the existing laws are very strong. The existing laws, the first thing we are going to do if and when I win, is we are going to get rid of all of the bad ones.”
While the GOP nominee has previously called for a mass deportation of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, his new strategy appears to be rooting out those who break U.S. law.
“And they are going to be out of this country so fast your head will spin,” Trump told O’Reilly. “We have existing laws that will allow you to do that. As far as everybody else, we are going to go through the process, like they are now, perhaps with a lot more energy.”
Trump then referenced Obama, whose administration has set a record on deportations. As of January 2016, the Obama administration had deported more than 2.5 million people, 23 percent more than former President George W. Bush, according to Fusion.
“What people don't know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country,” Trump continued. “Bush, the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I’m going to do the same thing, and I just said that.”
When O’Reilly referenced Trump’s previous statements that his deportation plan would mirror former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s detention camps, the GOP nominee brushed off the comparison.
“I’m not going to put them in a detention center,” Trump said. The business mogul added “I don’t agree with that.”
Trump’s interview with O’Reilly occurred just days after the GOP nominee’s meeting with Hispanic leaders on Aug. 20. Sources present during the meeting told Univision News that Trump was going to unveil an immigration plan that would include a path to legalization.
Immigration lawyer Jacob Monty of Texas recalled that Trump promised to grant immigrants in the country illegally a status “that wouldn’t be citizenship but would allow them to be here without fear of deportation.”
Trump was set to unveil his immigration plan in Colorado on Aug. 25. That speech has been delayed, with the Trump campaign explaining that the GOP nominee is still refining his policy, Politico reports.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway has slammed reports that the GOP nominee promised Hispanic leaders a pivot on his immigration plan, asserting that his promises were “distorted a bit based on somebody who was in the room.”